What's New for 1999
A new, all-wheel-drive active transfer case replaces the previous AWD system, and includes a new control module and service light. There are two new interior roof consoles: one with storage is optional on base model, another with trip computer is standard on LS and LT trim. A new LT stripe design comes in three new colors. Dealer-installed running boards are available, as are new optional aluminum wheels. Three exterior paint colors are added for '99, while depowered airbags finally arrive this year. Finally, the outside mirrors are redesigned, available heated and with or without electrochromic glare reduction.
Models that have been around for a while can still deliver impressive value and valor. That's true of the long-lived Astro van, a staple in Chevy's lineup since 1985. This hard-working passenger/cargo hauler, sporting a conventionally boxy shape, has (if anything) mellowed with age.
No, you don't get the curvaceous contours or the ergonomics of a Chrysler mini or a Ford Windstar. What you do acquire is a highly practical carrier that can be equipped to suit just about any family, trimmed in any of three levels. Depending on configuration, Astros can seat up to eight passengers and haul as much as three tons.
Out on the road, rolling hour after hour, is where the Astro demonstrates its true worth. Taller than its likely rivals, Astros are admittedly more truck-like in temperament, but deliver a pleasant highway ride with competent handling for long journeys. Seats are a little short, but comfortable, in both the front and center positions. Unfortunately, overly small front footwells drop the comfort level a notch, especially after long stints behind the wheel. A 190-horsepower 4.3-liter V6 is standard, putting power through a smooth-shifting four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission to drive the rear wheels.Dual depowered airbags and antilock brakes are standard. You get only one body choice: the extended-length version. The lower-priced rear-drive rendition is the ticket for hauling plenty of weight. All-wheel-drive costs more and delivers improved wet-pavement traction, but slurps up more fuel along the route.
This year, Chevy adds a state-of-the-art all-wheel-drive transfer case to replace the old AWD system. It operates in two-wheel-drive until the system senses rear-wheel slippage. It then immediately transfers torque between the front and rear axles to help regain traction and optimize control. Also new are interior roof consoles, redesigned outside mirrors, and new optional aluminum wheels.
Three new paint colors are available for 1999, while the LT model gets a redesigned stripe, itself available in three new colors. And dealers can now install optional running boards in six colors. Solid and substantial, Astros remain tempting (if dated) choices, whether for hauling passenger or cargo. If you need a small van with big van capacity and versatility, the Astro should be on your shopping list.